How To Avoid Getting Diabetes

By Jeanne M. Andrews
Approximately one in every 10 adults worldwide could have type 2 diabetes by 2030, causing huge related spikes in health care spending, disability and related conditions such as kidney failure. However, if you don't want to be among those whose lives are shortened - and made significantly less comfortable - by diabetes, there are steps you can take now to prevent yourself from ever developing the condition.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, which appears in childhood and can't be effectively prevented, it is possible to ward off type 2 diabetes. To do so, you'll probably need to make significant changes in your diet and your lifestyle, especially if you already have pre-diabetes. Here are five tips to help you avoid a diabetes diagnosis:

1. Change your diet. There's no doubt that a western-style diet, heavily laden with refined carbohydrates, helps to push people over the edge into diabetes. There's also some evidence that red meat - even in small quantities - may help promote diabetes, although health experts increasingly are blaming the refined carb-based foods that usually are consumed with meat (think baked potato and rolls) rather than the meat itself.

The bottom line is, replacing your steak and potatoes dinner with a meal made up of chicken and green vegetables can go a long way toward reducing your risk of diabetes. If you reduce or eliminate refined "white" foods such as bleached flour and sugar from your diet, you'll reduce your risk further. Replace them with vegetables, fruits and a few whole grains.

2. Skip the soda. There's firm evidence that sugar-laden beverages, such as soda pop or sweetened sports drinks, can raise your risk of diabetes substantially. In one ongoing study, women who drank at least one sugar-sweetened beverage each day had a whopping 83 percent greater risk of type 2 diabetes when compared to women who largely avoided the drinks. The more sodas you drink, the higher your risk of diabetes.

Sugary drinks such as sodas and fruit punch can cause you to pack on some extra pounds, adding to your diabetes risk. However, the sugar in those drinks also causes your body to produce extra insulin - the hormone responsible for controlling your blood sugar - and repeated insulin surges eventually can cause insulin resistance, the precursor to diabetes.

3. Try a little exercise. Few tri-athletes suffer from type 2 diabetes, but you don't need to sweat that much to help yourself lower your risk of the condition. According to the American Diabetes Association, you should aim to get about 30 minutes each day of exercise that raises your pulse rate moderately.

Many people have trouble fitting a 30-minute daily workout into their schedules. Fortunately, you don't need to work out for 30 minutes continuously to obtain the same benefits; you can fit in your exercise in 10-minute increments, whenever it suits you. Try walking to a nearby lunch spot instead of driving, or take the stairs at work instead of the elevator.

4. Stop smoking. People who smoke up to 25 cigarettes each day - just a little over one pack - are three times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as non-smokers. Smoking two or more packs per day raises your risk even more.

Yes, quitting smoking is difficult; success rates for various smoking cessation programs and techniques range from under 20 percent when you take medication that helps you quit smoking to a dismal 3 percent when you use an online support program. However, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can possibly do for your health - the benefits will extend well beyond helping you avoid diabetes.

5. Lose weight. It's no secret that people who carry too many pounds also carry a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. However, you may not realize how much those pounds increase your risk. Gaining just two pounds over the course of a decade makes you nearly 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes than you would have been if you'd remained at the same weight.

Losing weight, meanwhile, decreases your diabetes risk considerably - for every two pounds you lose over 10 years, you're 33 percent less likely to get diabetes than you would have been otherwise. Even if you're significantly overweight, dropping just a few of those excess pounds can help you reduce your risk.

Type 2 diabetes can represent a frightening diagnosis, but it's not inevitable, even if you're at high risk for it currently. By making these positive changes in your lifestyle, you have an excellent chance of steering clear of the condition and all its complications.